The field of what might be called "Extreme Wealth Planning" (for so called "flourishing families" with net worth in the hundreds of millions and up) is evolving from narrow but deep technical expertise, to humane learning as guidance system for advanced planning teams, or family offices, or multi-family offices. The new thought leaders have degrees, often in law or finance, but resting upon undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields like history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and often divinity. Me, too. So it takes one to know one, and it takes one to call us out for what we are and for the dangers we are running. Be it said, I am drunkard, a coward, and an opportunist. Whatever gifts God has given me I have squandered. I would rather be wealthy than wise, and what am I now but broke and insane? Take my views below not as those of the Omniscient Narrator, that is a sorry joke, but as the wretched man in the dumpster. Diogenes with a hangover.
We are not the first society with concentrated wealth and an inner circle of gentlemen and ladies who advise it. Roman satire, English Augustan satire, the plays of Shakespeare, the vanitas tradtion in poetry and sermon, Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Boethius, Dante's Inferno, Gogol's Dead Souls, the plays and stories of Chekkov, the paintings of Goya, all go the corruption of spirituality and humanity in service to great wealth. As we enter this field of forces offering up our learning, divinity degrees, therapy degrees, philosophy degrees, lit crit degrees, and ability as teachers, preachers, therapists, moral mentors, secular priests, and shamans, we should recognize the moral dangers. Shaman as Charlatan. Service to God and Mammon as simony, the mortal sin of selling holy things. We come also to the question of unconscious incompetence. We come to the question of professional standards. We come to the question of ego enlargement, grandiosity, and narcissism. We come to the question of credulity. We come to the questions taste, good and bad. We do not have the professional venues, nor standards, in which we call each other out, without giving offense. This bodes ill for the emerging field of humane wealth planning. The core virtue is humility. The first principal is "to do no harm." The best of cures for what ails us, the plague of ego inflation, is laughter. At ourselves first and foremost. We are on a Fool's errand and the funny part is how seriously we go about it, pending our pratfall.
I am very sorry I wrote that. I am sorry it even occurred to me. I am going to be even more sorry, when I hit "Publish Now." I know I need help. Everyone tells me so. All the free advice a man could want. But will any of you, the virtuous and wise, with a billing rate of $5,000-10,000 a day, take the time to heal my soul, for free? I guess healing the rich is probably more highly leveraged, and could do more good. Every market clears at a price. And on the margins the trash piles up. Forgive me. I am not having a good day. Strong meds, alcohol and despair don't mix. I wish I had read less as a young man, or been less susceptible to it. Bits keep coming to mind, the voices of so many authors, and the muses, too, I think, or the fates, or the harpies, and they have driven me mad, I fear.